Who is eligible

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Relating to
February 9, 2009
Current as of 03/23/12

John M. Cannel, Esq., Executive Director


153 Halsey Street, 7th Fl., Box 47016

Newark, New Jersey 07101


(Fax) 973-648-3123

Email: njlrc@njlrc.org

Web site: http://www.njlrc.org
Many of the statutes in the earlier chapters of Title 44- The Poor Law were enacted in the nineteenth century. Others date from the 1920’s and before. They are archaic, in substance and in style, and do not reflect current reality and practice. Repealed and superseded terms and statutory citations exist in numerous sections. Also found in many sections are unconstitutional provisions for deporting people who lack legal “settlement” in New Jersey to other states. It appears that as times and welfare programs changed, very little of the old law was repealed. Thus, when categorical relief was established in the 1930’s, new chapters were added but the old statutes on indoor and outdoor relief were left in place. When poverty programs were established in the 1960’s, more material was added. With welfare reform in the 1990’s, more was added, but very little was repealed or amended to bring it up to date. The result is that most of Title 44 is completely anachronistic. Very little of it is read or relied on by those who administer welfare programs. These parts of Title 44 should be revised or deleted. However, there are a few statutes that are of continuing importance buried among statutes that have no modern function. For example, sections in chapter 1 establish the basic duties of the counties and municipalities. Those must be retained.
The modern parts of Title 44 also need revision. Two main laws with confusingly similar names govern assistance to the needy in New Jersey. One, the “Work First New Jersey” act, N.J.S. 44:10-55 et seq., L. 1997, resulted from the federal “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996,” 42 U.S.C. Section 601, et seq., which established a federal block grant for temporary assistance for needy families and enabled the states to design their own welfare programs. This act title replaced earlier programs including: aid to families with dependent children, general assistance, emergency assistance for recipients, and the Family Development Initiative. N.J.S. 44:10-58(b). The two main relief programs established by this act title are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and General Assistance (GA). TANF is the successor to the federally funded categorical programs; GA is the continuation of the municipal general assistance for those people who do not fit within the categorical programs. The 21 county welfare agencies administer TANF using Federal and State funds.
The Work First New Jersey General Assistance Act, N.J.S. 44:8-107 et seq., L. 1997, the second main law, replaced the State’s General Assistance law of 1947. The relationship between the two “Work First” laws is obfuscated by their statutory language. The Work First New Jersey General Assistance Act seems to establish a general assistance program for “needy, single adults and couples without dependent children ….” N.J.S. 44:8-108. In fact, the act serves to provide for municipal governance of the General Assistance program established by the other “Work First” act. In 1995, most provisions were amended to allow either the municipality or the county, where appropriate, to run the program. County welfare agencies administer the majority of general assistance programs; however 103 of New Jersey’s 566 municipalities still maintain their own offices for local administration. The State funds general assistance.
This draft proposes that the entire Title be called “Public Assistance Law” and that the distinctions between Assistance (now Chapter 8) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (currently Chapter 10) be clarified to remove meaningless and unnecessary duplication. The substantive provisions explain who is eligible, what benefits one receives, and the work requirements. Administrative provisions comprise a separate chapter.

Chapter 1 – Legislative Findings; Definitions

1-1. Legislative findings

a. The Legislature finds and declares that the law of New Jersey has always imposed a duty on the public entities to provide assistance to eligible persons. Nothing in this law, by enactment, or repeal, is intended to affect that basic duty. If the programs continued in this law do not provide all necessary assistance to eligible persons, additional assistance shall be provided by public entities as in the past.

b. An eligible person shall be given appropriate assistance during the time an application for assistance is being considered.

c. This act title along with other law will implement all federal categorical public assistance programs and provide for those persons who need assistance and who are not eligible under federal categorical programs through the General Assistance Program.

Source: 44:8-120, New.


Subsections (a) and (c) are new and are intended to assure that recompilation of poor law dating back to the nineteenth century does not disturb the basic common law principle that there is a public duty to assist the needy. Subsection (b) derives from 44:8-120 and emphasizes that assistance is allowed to begin before the entire inquiry process initiated by an application concludes.

1-2. Definitions

a. “Alternative work experience” means unpaid work and training only with a public, private nonprofit or private charitable employer to provide a recipient with the experience to adjust to, and learn how to function in, an employment setting and the opportunity to combine that experience with education and job training. An alternative work experience participant shall not be assigned to work for a private, for profit employer.

b. “Commissioner”, unless otherwise specified, means the Commissioner of the Department of Human Services.

c. “Community work experience” means unpaid work and training only with a public, private nonprofit or private charitable employer, provided to a recipient to enable the recipient to adjust to, and learn how to function in, an employment setting. Placements are directed toward groups directly involved in public service. A community work experience participant shall not be assigned to work for a private, for profit employer

d. “Department”, unless otherwise specified, means the Department of Human Services.

e. “Dependent child” means a child:

(1) under the age of 18;

(2) under the age of 19 and a full-time student in a secondary school or an equivalent level of vocational or technical training, if, before the student attains age 19, the student may reasonably be expected to complete the student’s program of secondary school or training; or

(3) under the age of 21 and enrolled in a special education program, who is living in New Jersey with the child’s natural or adoptive parent or legal guardian, or with a relative designated by the Commissioner in a place of residence maintained by the relative as the relative’s home.

f. “Eligible alien” means one of the following

(1) a qualified alien as defined by subsection (r) of this section, admitted to the United States prior to August 22, 1996, who is eligible for means-tested, federally funded public benefits pursuant to federal law;

(2) a refugee, asylee, victim of human trafficking, or person granted withholding of deportation under federal law for the person’s first five years after receiving that classification in the United States pursuant to federal law;

(3) a qualified as defined by subsection (r) of this section alien who is a veteran of, or on active duty in, the armed forces of the United States, or the spouse or dependent child of that person pursuant to federal law;

(4) a recipient of refugee and entrant assistance activities or a Refugee Resettlement entrant pursuant to federal law;

(5) a legal permanent resident alien who has worked 40 qualifying quarters of coverage as defined under Title II of the federal Social Security Act; except that for any period after December 31, 1996, a quarter during which an individual received means-tested, federally funded public benefits shall not count toward the total number of quarters;

(6) a qualified alien as defined by subsection (r) of this section admitted to the United States on or after August 22, 1996, who has lived in the United States for at least five years and is eligible for means-tested, federally funded public benefits pursuant to federal law; or

(7) a qualified alien as defined by subsection (r) of this section who has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States by a spouse, parent or a member of the spouse or parent’s family residing in the same household as the alien, or a qualified alien whose child has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States by a spouse or parent of the alien, without the active participation of the alien, or by a member of the spouse or parent’s family residing in the same household as the alien. In either case, the spouse or parent shall not have consented or acquiesced to the battery or cruelty and there shall be a substantial connection between the battery or cruelty and the need for benefits to be provided. This subsection shall not apply to an alien during any period in which the individual responsible for the battery or cruelty resides in the same household or eligible household as the individual subjected to the battery or cruelty. Benefits shall be provided to the extent and for the period of time that the alien or alien’s child is eligible for the program.

g. “Eligible household” or “assistance unit” means:

(1) a person or couple persons with one or more dependent children to whom they are legally or blood-related, or of whom they are one of them is legal guardian, and who live together as a household unit;

(2) a unit comprised of individuals living together and functioning as one economic unit and whose relationship is based upon a blood or legal relationship, i.e., one that is created through marriage, adoption or legal guardianship procedures;

(3) a single person without dependent children;

(4) a couple persons living together as a household unit without dependent children; and

(5) dependent children only.

h. “Employable person” means a person applying for or receiving assistance under this act title who is not prevented from working by physical or mental disability as defined in the Commissioner’s regulations.

i. “Full-time employment” means employment unsubsidized by any level of government in which a person is engaged for at least 35 hours a week.

j. “Full-time post-secondary student” means a student enrolled for a minimum of 12 credit hours in a post-secondary school.

k. “General assistance” means assistance provided to eligible single adults and couples without dependent children who are willing to work but cannot be employed because of physical or mental disability or inability to find employment.

k. “Income” includes commissions, salaries, self-employed earnings, child support and alimony payments, interest and dividend earnings, wages, receipts, unemployment compensation, any legal or equitable interest or entitlement owed that was acquired by a cause of action, suit, claim or counterclaim, insurance benefits, temporary disability claims, estate income, trusts, federal income tax refunds, State income tax refunds, homestead rebates, lottery prizes, casino and racetrack winnings, annuities, retirement benefits, veterans’ benefits, union benefits, or other sources that the Commissioner may define as income, except that if individual development accounts for recipients are established by regulation of the Commissioner, any interest or dividend earnings from such an account shall not be considered income.

l. “Income eligibility standard” means the income eligibility threshold based on eligible household size established by regulation of the Commissioner for benefits provided within the limit of funds appropriated by the Legislature.

m. “Legal guardian” means a person who exercises continuing control over the person or property, or both, of a child, including any specific right of control over an aspect of the child’s upbringing, whether or not pursuant to a court order.

n. “Marriage” includes domestic partnership and civil union. “Spouse” includes a party to a domestic partnership or civil union.

o. “Non-eligible caretaker” means a relative caring for a dependent child, or a legal guardian of a minor child who, in the absence of a natural or adoptive parent, assumes parental responsibility and has income which exceeds the income eligibility standard.

p. “Poverty level” means the official poverty level based on family size, established and adjusted under Section 673(2) of Subtitle B of the “Community Services Block Grant Act,” Pub. L. 97-35 (42 U.S.C. sect. 9902(2)).

q. “Qualified alien” is defined according to section 431 of Title IV of Pub. L. 104-193, 8 U.S.C.A. § 1641.

r. “Residence” means the place where a person is present and declares an intent to remain.

s. “Services” means any Work First New Jersey benefits that are not provided in the form of cash assistance.

t. “Standard of need” means the minimum amount of income and in-kind benefits or services needed by families and single persons living in New Jersey in order to maintain a decent and healthy standard of living, as established by regulation of the Commissioner, and shall include necessary items such as housing, utilities, food, work-related transportation, clothing and personal and household essentials.

u. “State Board” means the State Welfare Board.

v. “Title IV-A” means the provisions of Title IV-A of the federal Social Security Act governing the program of aid to families with dependent children the State Plan to implement those provisions that were in effect until August 22, 1996, including income methodologies for determining eligibility under those provisions and plan.

w. “Title IV-D” means the provisions of Title IV-D of the federal Social Security Act governing paternity establishment and child and medical support enforcement activities and requirements.

x. “Work activity” means employment and employment related activities defined by regulation of the Commissioner. “Work activity,” however, shall include any activities included as work by federal regulations.

Source: 44:10-4, 44:10-34, 44:10-44, 44:10-57, 44:10-71, 44: 10-108., NJDHS, DFD bulletin New Jersey State Plan for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families FFY 2006-FFY 2008, p. 5, p. 7, p. 17.


The draft combines all the definitions of the four source sections into one provision.

1-3. Construction in general

a. The provisions in this chapter shall not be construed to be exclusive.

b. A particular grant of power contained in this chapter shall be held construed to be in specification but not in limitation of general powers.

Source: 44:1-2.


The Division of Family Development consultants asked that this be added.

Chapter 2 - Provisions Applicable to both Work First New Jersey Programs: General Assistance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

2-1. Work First New Jersey Programs

a. Two programs compose Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) the State’s assistance program:

1) General Assistance (GA) gives provides cash benefits and supportive services to persons who are not eligible for TANF such as single adults or families without children.

2) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the New Jersey implementation of implementing the federal categorical program, gives provides temporary cash benefits and support to enable families to get and keep jobs.

b. To receive assistance from GA or TANF, a person must:

1) either work, look for work, participate in an approved work activity, or qualify for an exemption to work-related requirements; and

2) cooperate with paternity determination requirements, and with child support requirements if the person has dependent children.

3) cooperate with child support requirements if the person has dependent children.

c. A person may not simultaneously receive benefits from both TANF and GA.

Source: New


This concise description is partially based upon the Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development (NJDHS, DFD) bulletin New Jersey State Plan for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, FFY 2006-FFY 2008, pp. 5, 7, 11.which explains New Jersey’s welfare reform program which followed the reforms of the federal “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.”

2-2. Adult recipient required to seek work

a. Each adult recipient of a Work First New Jersey program shall continuously and actively seek employment, as defined by the Commissioner, in an effort to remove the recipient’s eligible household from the program. The Commissioner may assign a recipient to a work activity. The recipient shall sign an individual responsibility plan as provided in subsection (f) of this section, in order to participate in the program. The plan shall state the terms of the work activity requirements that the recipient must fulfill in order to receive benefits.

b. In accordance with Pub. L. 104-193, §407 (codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 607), a recipient in an eligible household with dependent children shall begin a work activity, self-directed job search or other activities which the Commissioner determines, prior to having received 24 months of benefits; except that if the recipient is a full-time post-secondary student in a course of study related to employment as defined by regulation, the recipient shall be required to do another work activity for no more than 15 hours a week, subject to the recipient satisfactorily progressing toward completion of the post-secondary course of study.

c. A recipient shall comply with work activity requirements in order to remain eligible for benefits. A recipient may be required to participate in one or more work activities for a maximum aggregate hourly total of 40 hours per week.

d. A recipient shall not be required to engage in a work activity if child care, including after-school child care for children over six years of age, is unavailable for the recipient’s dependent child.

e. The Commissioner may allow a recipient to be deferred temporarily from work activity requirements for periods less than 12 months if the recipient is:

(1) a woman in the third trimester of pregnancy;

(2) a person certified by an examining physician to be unable to engage in any gainful occupation because of a physical or mental defect, disease or impairment; or

(3) the parent or relative of a child younger than 12 weeks who is providing care for that child, except that, the deferral may be extended for an appropriate period of time if medically necessary for the parent or child.

f. After being determined eligible for benefits, each adult recipient who is not deferred or exempted under this act title shall be assessed for potential and readiness for work, including, but not limited to, skills, education, past work experience and any barriers to securing employment, and, as appropriate, a screening and assessment for substance abuse. For all recipients who are not deferred or exempt, the county or municipal welfare agency and the recipient jointly shall develop an annual individual responsibility plan specifying the steps that will be taken by each to assist the recipient to secure employment. The plan shall include specific goals for each adult member or minor parent in the eligible household, and may include specific goals for a dependent child member of the eligible household. The goals may include, but not be limited to, requirements for parental participation in a dependent child’s primary school program, immunizations for a dependent child, and regular school attendance by a dependent child. Recipients who are job ready shall be placed immediately in a self-directed job search. Within the limits of the amount of funds allocated by the Commissioner, other recipients shall be placed in appropriate work activities according to their individual assessments.

g. The county or municipal agency shall ensure necessary case management for recipients, appropriate to their degree of job readiness, according to regulations. The most intensive case management shall be directed provided to recipients facing the most serious barriers to employment.

h. A recipient:

(1) shall not be placed in a position at a particular workplace if:

(a) that the position was previously filled by a regular employee if that position, or if the position or a substantially similar position at that workplace, has been made vacant through a demotion, substantial reduction of hours or a layoff of a regular employee in the previous 12 months, or has been eliminated by the employer during the previous 12 months;

(b) the position or its terms in a manner that infringes upon a wage rate or an employment benefit, or violates the contractual overtime provisions of a regular employee at that workplace;

(c) the position or its terms in a manner that violates an existing collective bargaining agreement or a statutory provision that applies to that workplace;

(d) the position in a manner that supplants or duplicates a position in an existing, approved apprenticeship program;

(e) the placement is made by or through an employment agency or temporary help service firm as a community work experience or alternative work experience worker;

(f) if there is a contractual or statutory recall right to that position at that workplace; or

(g) if there is an ongoing strike or lockout at that workplace.

(2) A person who believes him or herself to have been adversely affected by a violation of this subsection, or the organization duly authorized to represent the collective bargaining unit to which that person belongs, shall be given an opportunity to meet with a designee of the Commissioner of Labor or the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. The designee shall attempt to resolve the complaint of the alleged violation within 30 days of the date of the request for the meeting. If the complaint is not resolved within the 30-day period, the complainant may appeal to the New Jersey State Board of Mediation in the Department of Labor for expedited binding arbitration in accordance with the rules of the Board. If the arbitrator finds that a violation has occurred, the arbitrator shall provide an appropriate remedy. Both parties to the dispute shall bear equally the cost of the arbitration.

(3) Nothing in this subsection shall prevent a collective bargaining agreement from containing additional protections for a regular employee.

i. The Commissioner of Labor, acting in conjunction with the Commissioners of Banking and Insurance, Commerce and Economic Development, Community Affairs, Education, Health and Senior Services, Human Services, Labor and Transportation, shall implement all elements of the program and establish initiatives to help move recipients toward self-sufficiency.

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